Perspective Vortex

Would they miss you if you were gone?
What would have to change for that question to lead to a better answer?

(Today’s prompt is from Seth Godin, of Seth Godin fame.)

I would be missed. Of that I am sure. Just probably not by “them.”

There would be no fanfare, no news item. I have left no books in my wake, no fans breathlessly awaiting sequels. Whatever impact I have had in my “work” is hidden in projects that were much bigger, done mainly in the background while somebody else got to be the face of it all.

If forced, most near-strangers would probably describe me with the same sort of non-committal language that ones uses to refer to a plant. I’m part of the background, the “network of nobodies” that somebody referred to at a meeting I was at recently. (Note to self: return that email. He was on to something.)

I am, however, still of an age that, for some people, a permanent departure would be a catastrophe. (How’s that for a euphemism for dying while your children are still children?) In addition, a goodly number of people are fond enough of me that I would probably occur to them at random times, maybe even years later. I lost a friend several years ago who had regularly recommended books, authors, and movies, and I think of him in bookstores and when picking something to watch. He had more of an impact on me than he knew, I think. I miss him. I’m confident that I have those people in my life, and that I don’t know, either.

And still, there are dozens of people who appear to experience unfeigned delight when they run into me; I’m sure that for them my non-existence would register, at least momentarily. There would be head shakings and “What a pity”s.

In here is the seed of an answer to the second question. ‘Cause I know that’s not what he was talking about. And I do kinda care about that other (more legitimate) interpretation, too. (See how I got all casual there, as if it weren’t the existential terror that has driven me since my mid-teens?)

“They” would miss me, in some sense, but they wouldn’t know it. The work that I haven’t done, the book that is sketched out on the wall of my office kitchen, the workshops I’ve only half written, or that I have written but not taught, or finished but not promoted… they are unfinished business that leaves me with the sense that, “I haven’t filled my end of the bargain.”

I believe that (on the one hand), each of us brings a unique set of perspectives to the world, and that our “work” involves sharing those perspectives with one another in case we have the pieces that somebody else needs. But/and (as one of my friends puts it), I also believe that ideas and perspectives evolve and arise out of collective knowledge, and that the outcomes of our individual contributions are unpredictable.

Show up. Do what is called for. Neither withhold nor demand attention, yet speak your truth.

My work isn’t done. My children are not raised. I have not expressed all my appreciations and gratitudes.

And if I were hit by a car tomorrow, as horrible as it would be to my immediates, the world would go on without me. The fact that this no longer fills me with dread and panic is making it a lot easier to get things done.


Pic via @NicSpaull



What recurring daydream for 2016 inspires you to do business as unusual like never before? Scott Barry Kaufman (The #Quest2016 continues)

My daydreams wander. Road trip to road trip, imaginary trains, ocean liners of bygone eras, whimsical and lush caravans, camels in the Australian outback… there is wandering at the core. I have a deep love of wandering, and the “wheres” and “hows” are varied. There are jungles and deserts, oceans and volcanoes, missed connections and uncomfortable buses. I imagine childlike explorations, curiosity, and unexpected treasures.

And in between… there are hobbit houses and yurts. Tiny houses, natural houses, underground caves, curved surfaces, organic materials that invite me to trace my fingers along them… textures, sensations… deep, natural, and secret waters… and community. Lots and lots of fantasies of living in small spaces surrounded by people who live in communion with nature. Villages that are walkable, permaculture designed spaces… dreaming of home and dreaming of the road, pulling in opposite directions.

In a fantasy novel, I am the unexpected member of the quest, the adventurer that must be retrieved from a quiet village life who brings with her secret, surprising, and essential skills… and hesitates not one moment to bring the pack and the bow out from under the bar and throw them on her back.


So. Business. What does this bring to my “business as unusual”?

I am currently building software. You can see that I’m not dreaming of riches or power, fame, or even impact. One of my startup colleagues said to me, “It’s not clear to me what you want from all of this.”

So. “What’s my motivation?” (she said to her director, and finding she had none, decided to answer it for herself.)

On the one hand, directly: Intimacy. Exploration. Experience. The financial and temporal freedom to pursue those things. This precludes a 10-year plan that involves corner offices, power suits and skyscrapers. It puts me at odds with the majority of the part of the world that build software (but not with my business partner, which is at least a minor miracle.)

On the other, indirectly: I have a deep love for human beings in the abstract. I don’t want liberty that comes at somebody else’s expense. I want to pave the way for others… or possibly, given my leanings, build a really nice boardwalk through the forest. I don’t see much point in my solving these problems without sharing what I find in a way that is usable.

The software I’m building is designed to share the wealth, to spread the benefits around. It is software informed by permaculture principles, and by my earlier work looking at the ethics of technical decision making. It is pragmatic and romantic at the same time. Holding this dream requires me to hold those two truths simultaneously and not to get caught in other people’s stories of what is possible.

Now if you will excuse me, I believe I may have a dragon to fight.

If I Couldn’t Fail…

How would you do business as unusual in 2016 if you knew – no matter what you chose – you would not fail? #Quest2016 @debbiemillman

I would be profligate!


I would not be frugal with my time or my resources. I would not even be merely generous. I would give away my ideas, cast them to the winds, let them fall where they may and count on them landing in fertile soils. I would go to unrelated conferences, talk about whatever caught my fancy, throw branding out the window and worry not one little bit about target markets. I would host workshops on all the things I have ever taught, all the things I love, and all the things I need to know that other people can’t yet teach me.

I would spark conversations about alternative currencies, and new forms of equity. I would form new corporations regardless of whether I could find a lawyer who understood what I was on about. I would invent, and support, and podcast, and write, and make software, and tell a thousand stories, in faith that each of my thousand pieces would reach the people who needed them. I would sing loudly, confident that I make up with enthusiasm what I lack in technique. I would let the soft animal of my body love what it loves. (Mary Oliver, Wild Geese)

(Now my engineering mind is thinking, “Metrics! Metrics! Metrics!” And my loving heart is laughing, “How could you possibly fail at that?“)